Whenever I meet people who have travelled throughout South America, they very often tell me that Colombia was their favourite place. It's mine as well. There's something completely captivating about the land and the people, despite the country's tumultuous past. I'm happy to say that it really is quite safe to travel there now - my only safety tips would be not to flag cabs on the street (call them instead), and make sure you're in a safe place when taking money out from an atm.
Now, on to my three favourite places and my must see's in each one:
- The Musea del Oro (the Gold Museum) is a breathtaking museum displaying Colombia's archaeological history, with a focus on gold.
- The Museo Botero has an impressive collection of one of Colombia's most celebrated artists, Fernando Botero. Gotta love someone who only paints and sculpts fat people.
- The Zona Rosa is a happening neighbourhood filled with trendy restaurants and great shopping.
- La Candelaria is another wonderful area in the city. Perfect for whiling away an afternoon and visiting the above mentioned museums.
- Usaquén is home to a famous flea market on Sundays, definitely worth checking out.
- Expoartesanias - this is my number one favourite thing to do in Colombia, but it only happens once a year in December. It's South America's biggest art market and each time I go, I spend hours walking through the stalls and emptying my wallet.
- Villa de Leyva is a little town about 3 hours away from Bogota by car. It's beautifully old fashioned, with colonial architecture and the cutest little shops and restaurants. My advice would just be to go to the plaza and start walking.
- If you want something touristy, my mom suggests leaving the town to explore the Convento del Santo Ecce Homo.
- If you do go, let me know and I can help with accommodation. There are lots of nice houses to let.
- Cartagena is a touristy hot spot, so accommodation ranges from cheap and cheerful to VERY expensive and luxurious. On the cheap and cheerful end, the Hotel Tres Banderas is a great find. If you're rolling in it, the Santa Clara is a magnificent old monastery turned 5 star hotel.
- La Vitrola - one of my favourite restaurants in the old city serving up traditional Colombian fare in a beautiful room.
- La Manga is an area quite different from the walled city, but beautiful nevertheless.
- Even though Cartagena is a coastal city, I have to say that the beaches are disappointing. If you're a tourist, you will be harassed nonstop by hawkers and it's just not worth it. Stick with pools.
- Cartagena is really all about the ambience. So get out, explore, eat the street food and take photos. A post lunch siesta doesn't hurt either.
One last note on food - I just love Colombian food! Make sure to try: arepas, empanadas, bandeja paisa, ajiaco, and as much juice as you can get your hands on (curuba and guanabana are good starts). Well, that's that! Feel free to ask me any other questions; I'm happy to help. And thanks to my mom for helping me put this post together.